Category Archives: Other Reviews
The progression of “Fled” [Meg Keneally/Arcade/408pgs] is one of abstract strife but undoubted perseverance. While the conclusion of the book reflects more in the idea of admiring lives that are only given praise in hindsight, the journey of Jenny Gwyn in the book is a great tale. This book would make a wonderful series and character study especially in the days of series like “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” but with a decidedly darker tinge. The travails and discussions of today didn’t exist on the ship that Jenny was sentenced to after being convicted of stealing from a women of stature in England. Rather than hang, she is sent on a ship where both men and women are carted as slaves, cheaper than labor, to help work colonies in border lands in Australia. The colonies could be anywhere. It is simply a prison from which there is no escape. The vividness of the times on the boat and even on land have a sense of intensity about them. Jenny knows how to survive and while not being overtly assertive or aggressive, realizes how to make her life work and how it can go wrong. She marries a man who is both admired of her but also misled on his own importance. This to and fro is the pulse of the book. Jenny is mostly right but she also wants her husband, who is the best fisherman in the colony to live up to his standard. But jealousy among others and the inherent politics of class, greed and avarice definitely play into the proceedings. This is not “Lord Of The Flies” but people simply surviving on the edge of society where society still thinks it has a foothold. It is reminiscent of the house Martin Sheen visits in the director’s cut of “Apocalypse Now” It is real and yet almost imaginary…a hell from which there is no escape. And yet plans are made.
The dexterity but also vignettes of optimism which Keneally captures in small details with the fish, Jenny’s eventual children and the natives give voices to that desolation and helplessness that “Lost” sometimes had but also hope that can be quickly quashed. The eventual escape through both folly and punishment from the island references “The Bounty” but also brings to mind Hitchcock’s “Lifeboat”. The details as they traverse the sea in a boat that should not is made beautiful by the simple visions and repairs that are done along the way. While it might sound mundane in the writing of this review, it is not. It is existential without pretending to be….dramatic without resorting to melodrama. The struggle between life and death as well as ego is an interesting conundrum as played out on the boat as seen by Keneally. There is a rescue of sorts but the way it plays out adheres to the true nature of the characters leading them from the brink of salvation back into the depths of hell. Without giving the ending away, the book relays the possibility of redemption in a certain fashion. While this is admirable and does keep in time with the real life aspect of Mary Bryant, it almost comes off too neat. The ending epilogue the author admits is a fabrication and it feels so since it lacks the authenticity of the rest of Jenny’s journey, not to spite it but rather to try to give it meaning. But in doing so, it belittles her suffering in a way. Three-quarters of the book is fantastic while the last quarter feels like a moderate tack. Nevertheless it is a fantastic female-centric story that plays across the board both tugging at the heartstrings but also providing a sense of adventure even in a dark context. In many ways there is a parallel to Netflix’s recent “Lost In Space” with the matriarch pushing through with logic and emotion pushing at each other. Granted it lives in a different time but the same universal truths remain constant.
By Tim Wassberg
While not familiar with this comic profession before the Netflix show, the first season on Netflix of “Altered Carbon” gave a crash course in the dynamics with admirable effect but also decent “Blade Runner”-esque visuals. What this new comic installment does is take the noir structure and give it another round. The great aspect of this world is that there is no conception of who the lead actor is so the concept of the sleeves is fairly free comparative to the show who now must change actors. The story in “Altered Carbon: Download Blues” [Richard K. Morgan & Rik Hoslin/Dynamite/128pgs] is pure gumshoe by way of assassins. Someone is cloning famous people using their genomes and using them on the black market. Kovacs, as an ex-Envoy, was trying to keep to himself but a security black market sleeve forces him back into the open to make a deal. The cool thing about Kovacs is that he doesn’t really have any sense of morality but he does have a code which is what keeps him going. When he is targeted for assassination by himself in a way, he has to go, like the show in certain ways, “Total Recall”, thereby finding himself on another planet. The second construct is that this world has is the ability to transfer anybody’s consciousness (if you have the money) via needlecast anywhere the light connection is based. Ultimately Kovacs is requisitioned for good money to track down would-be assassins. He gets his revenge point in the end. “Altered Carbon” with the right tone is pre-neo noir “Runner” style but for the modern age. The creator knows this but understands the fun is in the unexpectedness of the journey and the ability of the character to roll with the punches.
By Tim Wassberg
The essence of Selina Kyle in a new perspective has always been an interesting idea. In a DC Universe where all the heroes comes from some trajectory of tragedy, one more is not necessarily a big surprise. In “Under The Moon – A Catwoman Tale” [Lauren Myracle/DC/208pgs], we get an origin story of sorts. Selina had possibility in terms of a moderately passable childhood but had a mother that either neglected or didn’t understand his own self worth. The reality of the situation is a truism as the actual idea of how this works runs in parallel to Regina Louise whom IR talked to in an interview recently. The situation creates a texture but also the experience of the individual. The story line that involves CInders, which was Selina’s cat she rescues and then loses because of the cruelty of her mother’s boyfriend, scars her for life but causes her not to trust anyone. She runs away from home and lives on the street. Her training with Ono seems organic in terms of how she gains skills. She was already stealing from stores before that so the element of this kind of life is ingrained into her personality anyway. The psychological elements of trust are brought to bear especially with Bruce Wayne whom we see a bigger backstory in terms of their youth. Selina has the modes of communication but she also wants people to make the effort to connect which sometimes is not the nature of human behavior. Because of this stubbornness, she continues to live on the streets and finds her way even if those she really wants to be close keep her at arms length or vice versa. “Under The Moon” is a Catwoman origin story for the new age which unfortunately keys into the isolation of the intention of the character while still keeping it in a time void with its own voice.
By Tim Wassberg